Small Shifts Cause Large Waves: Paris 2015

Gulls on the side of the Seine [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&lightboxID=4328606][img]http://www.erichood.net/paris.jpg[/img][/url]

The 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21 (Conference of the Parties 21) is the twenty first meeting of what is now a near-universal membership of 195 countries. Begun in response to climate change at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the “Rio Convention” included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change. That was the first framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. 

The COP meetings exist to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. COP3 was where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 produced the Montreal Action Plan, COP17 was in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

 

Ed Mazria is the founder of Architecture 2030, an organization committed to protecting our global environment by using innovation to develop bold solutions to global warming. He has called COP21 in Paris “an end to the fossil fuel era.” The historic agreement signed there is a long term goal committing almost 200 countries, including the U.S., China, India and the EU nations, to keep the global average temperature increase to “well below 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade.”

According to Ed, “the Paris Agreement introduces a new world, one that envisions an end to fossil fuel emissions and secures a strong mechanism to address climate change.”

 

COP21 attracted nearly 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates. Multiple forums were held on a variety of related topics. In addition, thousands of demonstrators were permitted to gather on December 12, in spite of France’s tightened security after the recent terrorist attacks. 

The following is a guest post by architect Veronica Schreibeis Smith, of Vera Iconica Architecture in Jackson, Wyoming. Veronica attended the Sustainable Energy for All Conference at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, held from November 30 to December 12, 2015. I asked her to share her thoughts here.         –Trud

 

We’ll begin with a few questions:

Q: Veronica, what part of the Paris Climate Conference did you attend?

A: I attended Sustainable Energy for All.

(Referred to as SE4all, “Sustainable Energy for All is a call for both revolution and reform; a radical vision where everyone can access and afford the reliable energy they need to live a productive, healthy, secure life, while respecting the planetary constraints that we all face as a result of climate change.” –Rachel Kyte, SE4All CEO/Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General)

Q: Why did you attend the Conference?

A: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Many times, our good intentions have unintended consequences. As the SE4All initiative focuses on powering the world, we need to simultaneously be working on initiatives that empower (people) to make the right decisions on how to use the energy once they receive it.

Buildings consume almost half the world’s power production. If we deliver power to exponentially more people, while only focusing on doubling the efficiency of the infrastructure and doubling the amount of of sustainable energy, we likely have not made a positive impact, but rather have continued on a track of more consumption.

My focus is how can we implement grass roots movements in Third World countries that educate people on how to have healthy and sustainable homes, and make healthy decisions for their families regarding consumption and preservation of culture, once they receive the energy.

To date, my role has been as a participant in think tank type of discussions to brainstorm what initiatives and actionable steps could be viable for making this come true.

 

Q: What was your takeaway on the most actionable steps?

A: To get involved. Not just wait and see what others are going to do, but to donate your time or money; if you have an idea, to reach out to the United Nations Foundations and share (what) you want to put into practice and just need financing for; to promote and encourage yourself and others to get involved as a public + private relationship to make meaningful change.

What do you think were the key accomplishments?

A: For the Paris talks in general, the level of unprecedented participation from around the globe. There was a social media survey from the UN that was mostly electronic, but in some areas they had paper ballots hand-delivered to UN outposts, and tallied by staff there. For every one thousand humans on this planet, one person responded to the survey. That is 7 million people from around the world uniting to create change and a better life for a healthier planet. That alone is huge. Good will follow–in exponential increments!

From that survey, the UN defined the 17 top priorities for the 21st century. The top five are:

  1. Poverty
  2. No Hunger
  3. Good Health
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality

The movement asks all of us to become a global citizen. This video explains more:

Veronica continues:

  • Nature is integral to human wellbeing, and a shift in the realization of our interconnectedness to the environment is continually growing. We can see this vast change in only six short years since the unsuccessful climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. Last month, an unmistakeable belief in a successful outcome for the Paris Climate Talks was clear after the first week.

 

  • There is no doubt that alterations in timing and logistics played a part. Most notable was the change from the world leaders’ involvement as the negotiators in 2009 to their limited role as speakers and advocates early in the first week, followed by relinquishing final negotiations to environmental and policy professionals. The greatest contributing factor came from outside the closed doors, and even outside Paris.

 

  • The Earth to Paris movement reached an unprecedented number of people across the planet. The Internet allowed access for all, which diminished the chasm that has distanced us in the past, such as residing in a developed versus developing countries, age gaps, social and economic backgrounds, and more.

 

  • Thousands of videos hosted by celebrities grabbed our attention on social media, surveys invited us to express our opinions, and finally, the call for Love Letters to Paris invited our thoughts to be hand delivered to leaders behind those closed doors. And it worked.

 

 

  • What keeps me going back to the United Nations Foundation discussions is the focus on how public and private sectors can unite to transform ideas into reality, to move from talk to walk. We heard success stories from Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, examples of how companies like Phillips Petroleum are leaping toward carbon-free operations and incorporating holistic, circular economy strategies, and how start-ups are innovating solutions, such as Mobilsol, which delivers off-the-grid solar energy via drones in Africa.

 

  • A subtle shift in perspective and an increase in awareness, followed by one actionable step after another is the catalyst needed to inspire individuals, companies, and economies of scale to make meaningful change, toward better husbandry of the earth.

 

  • Small shifts in perspective can cause massive ripples. After all, thoughts are things, and the unification of humanity’s thoughts will certainly cause waves. A connected world is powerful. A united world is power. Join in the efforts. Do your part. You make a difference as a collective part of the whole.

 

Veronica

Veronica Schreibeis Smith is the CEO and Founding Principal of Vera Iconica Architecture. Veronica’s entrepreneurial half is driven by the vision of creating company structures that support and empower individuals to reach their highest potential, while the architect in her is driven to raise awareness of the profound effects our surroundings have on our wellbeing. She has practiced architecture on four continents, and continues working internationally. She chairs the Wellness Architecture Initiative for the Global Wellness Institute, and recently founded Designed Developments, a B Corporation that invests in a new model of building to inspire and perpetuate the celebration of the richness of culture, pay homage to the natural landscape,and create environments that nourish our wellbeing and feed our souls. 

 

Design Futures Council: Senior Fellow

trudy headshot

This has been an especially gratifying year for me. In the past twelve months, I’ve published my design book (Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior), I’ve been named to the College of Fellows for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and I have just received word that the Design Futures Council has named me a Senior Fellow.

dfc

Ed Mazria reporting on the climate, 2014

The Design Futures Council (DFC) is an interdisciplinary network of leaders in design confronting global challenges. I’ve been a longtime member and contributor, happy to join with my friend and respected colleague James P. Cramer, who became the DFC’s primary founder and facilitator of information and inspiration throughout the organization.

jcramer_063_gg_indbsp_1220_small

To be named as a Senior Fellow by this highly esteemed group of professionals is recognition for “significant contributions toward the understanding of changing trends, new research, and applied knowledge that improve the built environment and the human condition.”

Jim Cramer says, “The leadership role of design is of critical importance toward the creation of a healthier and happier planet. The new Senior Fellows of the DFC have been selected for the tremendous impact they have had on our world.”

clean air post from istock

A happier, healthier planet is what I’ve worked for throughout my career. I’m proud to join the other Senior Fellows in that endeavor.

 

Dominique Browning and Moms Clean Air Force

 

There are many activists today who I refer to as my “environmental heroes,” individuals who are stepping out and speaking up about the important issues facing our planet.  I’ve long been a fan of Dominique Browning’s Mom’s Clean Air Force, founded in 2011 with the Environmental Defense Fund. Today, it’s a community 340,000 strong of moms, dads and others fighting for clean air and our kids’ health. The mission of MCAF is to show that air pollution isn’t just dirty, it is toxic. and that there is a connection between pollution and disease.

 

Now MCAF has a new free  E book , called Extreme Weather & Our Changing Climate. They’re requesting all of us to help promote the book and share it with each other. Here’s what they say about it:

“Everyone across the country is talking about how the weather is changing. And the weather is changing because the climate is changing. Our weather is unfolding in the context of a warmer earth, caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Climate scientists have shown that extreme rainfall, more likely as the weather warms, is already becoming more common across the country.”

global warming 2

The book covers The Big Three, the main issues related to climate change: heat and mega-heat waves, heavy rainfall, and drought. We are breaking temperature records, worldwide, at unprecedented rates.

storm clouds

A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture: there’s more vapor up there. So we get heavier rainfalls. And during a drought, the air bakes the soil, and the earth warms up even more.

corn killed by drought

The heavy rain that eventually falls doesn’t help the soil at all: it just runs off, causing flash flooding.

 

Dominique Browning also has another blog, the very lovely Slow Love Life, described as a place to share ways to practice daily mindfulness in the midst of our busy, productive days. That approach provides the perfect balance to concern for our planet. We all need to be restored and refreshed to do our best work in the world.

young woman enjoy the nature on the mountain lake

Dominique kindly agreed to answer some questions about her motivations and passion for the earth. Her interview with Holistic House follows:

Trudy: What was the inspiration behind Moms Clean Air Force? You’re a mom of two grown sons, so there’s that, of course. it’s grown and developed so much since its inception. What were you hoping for when you began?

Dominique: The inspiration is my two sons–and a love of home, quite honestly. As I’ve gotten older, I have expanded my idea of what is “home” beyond the walls of my house. First into the garden and then into the natural world in which we all really live. I have so many moments during the day that I think, what a blessing, a gift, an honor it is to be here, to watch that hummingbird, or to stand in awe of what humankind has accomplished…and I think: I want my children to enjoy this. I’m really thinking a great deal about what we are leaving behind for our loved ones, whether they are our own children or nieces and nephews, or simply, other small beings who count on us to protect them.

Trudy: To borrow from your interview with Michael Oppenheimer: optimist or pessimist? Knowing how enormous the problems are that we face, how do you get out of bed in the morning?

Dominique: I have chosen to be an optimist, because the alternative leads to depression and paralysis. And I’ve learned: I have a choice. I have a choice in the actions I take, what I do–so whether or not in my heart of hearts I think, we’re cooked, I act in the belief that we can make things better.

Trudy: You spent much of your life immersed in the design world, you wrote beautifully about the house where you raised your children, your garden there, and how you felt when you sold that home. You’ve moved again recently. I know you said you could write a book on creating a new home at this stage of life! What creates a sense of home for you? How do you define home today, versus earlier in your life?

Dominique: For one thing, I haul fewer things on the moving barge. But, there are still WAY too many things that I’m attached to, or rather, there are very many things, not too many. The things I love tell the story of who I am, what I care about, and they hold memories of love affairs and friendships. This wasn’t true when I was younger. So my sense of home comes from the things I love all around me, and from having spaces that I can read and rest in, and cook simple dinners for friends and family; home is where I feel I can express myself. 

Trudy: You wrote once that you feared you were becoming a curmudgeon because you saw balloons and all you could think of is that they would end up gagging a goose. What small (or large) thing do you see that you would like for the world to change today. I am a fierce opponent of of pesticides and lawn and garden chemicals, among other things! What is your current pet peeve, or pet project?

Dominique: I agree with you, Trudy: We’ve gotten way too dependent on chemicals to do the jobs that nature used to do with various plants and bugs. We wipe out the creatures who would eat pests for us, for instance. But worse: I’m increasingly agitated about all the natural habitat we are wiping out. People buy houses in the country because they fall in love with the beauty of the place–and then they proceed to neaten everything up, cut down hedgerows, mow away meadows and lose Joe Pye and Milkweed, and manicure the lawns, and leave lights on all night. Pretty soon, we aren’t in the country anymore. And we’re losing, all over the East Coast, all those ground nesters: killdeer, meadowlarks, bobolinks, pheasants.

Let’s start seeing the beauty in a tangle of branches, and the vivid play of color in a stand of what we should not think of as weeds, but rather as native stands of plants! Let’s enjoy watching the grasses ripple in a meadow.

Trudy: You’ve given so much time, energy and talent to making this world a better place for all of us. Where do you find sustenance, and the desire to keep working for what you believe in?

Dominique: Love is my sustenance. I know that sounds impossibly cornball. It is. Every moment of love that floods me–in what I see around me, or in the voice of a child, or a friend, or when I gaze at a painting I especially admire, whatever it is, every breath of love makes me stronger. It does for all of us–if we stop long enough, those few seconds or minutes of being open, to let it happen…

Trudy: Thank you, Dominique! We’re so delighted to showcase you, Moms Clean Air Force, and the new e-book, Extreme Weather.

Dominique: I wrote the Extreme Weather book because, as a gardener, I started noticing how strange things were getting. All of us talk about the weather, and how it is changing because of the warming of our globe. I wanted to understand that, because it is a good example of how something as abstract as “climate change” touches our lives in a very real way.

Trudy: I want to help share the e-book and your message, because it’s so important. This interview has such deep meaning for me. I hope that all my readers take the opportunity to download the free book, and then share it, too.

Let’s all act in the belief that we can make things better!

 

 

My Environmental Hero: Chief Oren Lyons

There are many passionate activists working to educate people about the dangers of climate change, and doing what they can to make a difference. They are my environmental heroes, and I’d like to introduce them to you on Holistic House. As the first in a new series,  I decided to begin with Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga and Seneca Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). He is also a member of the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee. You may have heard of him as a professor, author, publisher, outspoken advocate of both environmental and Indigenous causes, and if that weren’t enough, honorary chairman of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team!

Years ago, I sat with him at my first sustainable design conference. He said that when the tribal council of elders gathers to consider a decision, they look at its impact not to the next generation, or even the next, but all the way to the seventh generation. He also told me that while we in our culture call the trees “resources,” that his people call them relatives. Those thoughts have guided me in making many decisions in the years since.

 

Chief Oren Lyons is a voice for the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. He describes it like this: “At first I wanted to defend the Iroquois. Then my sights broadened to embrace other Indians. Then I saw this had to include defending indigenous peoples all over the world.”

In the same way, he has a commitment to protecting the earth. His words are powerful, and I hope that by sharing them with you here, together we can help his audience to continue to grow. I believe that we are in the midst of a crisis on our planet, but it is not too late to take action, wherever we can, to help heal the earth.

Chief Lyons says:

“It seems to me that we are living in a time of prophecy, a time of definitions and decisions. We are the generation with the responsibilities and the option to choose The Path of Life for the future of our children, or the life and path which defies the Laws of Rengeneration.

“We can still alter our course. It is NOT too late. We still have options. We need the courage to change our values to the regeneration of our families, the life that surrounds us. Given this opportunity, we can raise ourselves. We must join hands with the rest of Creation and speak of Common Sense, Brotherhood, and PEACE. We must understand that The Law is the Seed and only as True Partners can we survive.”

He also says:

“Global warming is real. It is imminent. It is upon us. It’s a lot closer than you think, and I don’t think we’re ready for what’s coming. We’re not instructing our people, we’re not instructing our children, we’re not preparing for what is coming. And it surely is coming. We’ve pulled the trigger and there is nothing we can do now to stop it. The event is underway.

“The chiefs, and I personally, feel that we have not passed the point of no return. Not yet, but we’re approaching it. And the day when we do pass that point, there will be no boom, no sonic sound. It will be just like any other day.”

global warming 2

Chief Lyons was born in 1930, and raised in the Iroquois culture on the Seneca and Onondage reservations in upstate New York. He served in the United States Army, and received an athletic scholarship to Syracuse University. In this video, he describes the beginning of his commitment to environmentalism, during a conversation with his uncle after his graduation.

You can learn more about Chief Lyons by watching Bill Moyer’s PBS documentary, Faithkeeperor by watching Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary The 11th Hour. 

 

Shifting Sands

© kenneth brizzee

The sea level is rising. That’s an indisputable fact, along with the increasingly dramatic storm forces that are part of climate change. The next century will certainly bring more significant erosion to coastal areas, particularly in New England.

Scientists have a wealth of information about the ocean and the tides, primarily because sailors and fishermen have kept weather logs and sailing records for more than two hundred years. We know for a fact that the average sea level has risen a little over 8 inches since 1880. That doesn’t sound like a lot, perhaps, but it contributes greatly to beach erosion during calm weather, and damaging higher tidal surges during storms.

It’s the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases that’s driving the change. The difficulty for coastal towns on the East Coast is that even while sea levels are rising, the land mass is actually sinking. All the way from southern Maine to northern Florida, and fastest in the Chesapeake Bay region, coastal flooding is getting worse, in part because of the lower land levels.

The New York Times published an excellent article, The Flood Next Time, identifying average sea level increases along the East Coast. In Norfolk, Virginia, as an example, neighborhoods are flooding even without storm surges. You can read the Times article here.

When I attended Greenbuild in Philadelphia in November 2013, architect and environmental expert Ed Mazria said that 2013 was the hottest year on record. His organization, 2030 Architecture, was established in 2002 in response to climate change, with a mission of changing the way the built environment and communities are planned, designed and constructed. Environmentalists first thought they could turn things around by 2030, but now they know that climate change is accelerating at a faster pace than thought. Read his thought-provoking Special Bulletin here. 

Top climate scientist James Hansen, retired from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City (1981-2013) and a spokesperson for the dangers of climate change, continues to warn us about the dangers of ignoring what’s taking place. You can watch his informative and persuasive TED talk here. He tells us we’ve passed the tipping pout of CO2 levels able 400ppm, but we must carry on and do the best we can.

The question is: what is our best? Attempts to mitigate the beach erosion and save homes on Nantucket aren’t always successful, or popular. In an article written for Treehugger.com, Sarah Oktay, the vice-chairman of the Nantucket Conservation Commission, explains the problem with “beach nourishment,” which is the dumping of tons of sand on eroded beaches to slow their disappearance, as well as putting up retaining walls.

The attempts to slow erosion, she says, cause harm to someone else. “If you take beach bluffs or dunes and you cover them in rocks so it can’t go anywhere, then it no longer provides that feeder material to downdrift beaches, so you’ll lose the beach in front of those rocks, and you’ll lose the beach downdrifts. It’s basically telling your neighbors, ‘Well, I want my home more than you want your beach.’ That doesn’t mean it’s not sad.”

This photograph of the beach in Madaket on Nantucket Island shows the way the rising tides come in, and when they recede, drag sand back out to sea. There used to be a home on the site shown below.

 

A clear view of beach erosion. Baxter Road on Sconset Bluff has been hardest hit.

 

There are a number of homes that have been moved to higher ground, or farther inland, including some that have been island landmarks for generations.

 

The home below is jacked up on steel beams.

 

Here’s another home getting ready to be moved farther inland.

 

We’re facing the limits of human intervention in combating a situation we created. We’ve lost time arguing over whether or not global warming and climate change are real concerns. Rather than feeling helpless, however, we need to take what action we can to support a healthy earth, and protect our coasts. There are so many good people doing good work for the environment. I urge you to support the environmental groups of your choice. I believe in The Power of One. You and I together can make a difference for the generations yet to be born.

 

On Safer Ground in Nantucket Today

living room 2

The August 2013 issue of Nantucket Today features a Dujardin-designed home with a unique story:  this beautiful Edwardian-era residence was saved not once, but twice, from the perils of the sea.  Built in 1908 on the sandy ground of Sconset Bluff on Nantucket, fierce storms and pounding waves in recent years have eroded the fragile shore, placing the house in danger of being swept out to sea.

© kenneth brizzeeThe owners of this elegant home first shifted it farther inland in 2006, but it wasn’t far enough.  The second move for the house was cross-island to Monomoy in 2010, where the house now watches the waves in the harbor from a safe distance. With the sea no longer a too-close neighbor, spectacular gardens have been planted outside with massive hedges, and organic vegetable and fruit gardens instead of sandy paths.

pillows blue willow

I first designed this home in 1996, so there’s an odd sense of deja vu for me as I walk through these rooms.  An updated family room, breakfast room and kitchen replaced a maze of rooms that once was the servant’s wing.

kitchen

The world of 1908 is still in evidence in the house, recalled by the back servants’ stairs and the original call box with bells for the library, the guest rooms, and the original owners of the house, Mr. and Mrs. Dustin.

servants stairs

As befits a home that has lasted for generations, there is a beguiling mix of ages throughout.  In the entry, a 19th Century gilt mirror adds a touch of grandeur, arching over 21st Century whale art in handblown glass by Raven Skyriver.

eagle and whale

An enfilade of rooms opens one upon the other, offering tantalizing glimpses of subtle blues and yellow, creams and whites, richly finished wood floors and plush rugs underfoot. Dignified antiques add a decorous note to airy spaces.

entry

There’s a ribbon of soft color that runs through the house; shades of bluebells and buttercups wrap the rooms in tranquil tones that lit spirits on even the foggiest days.

living room

The home’s original setting on Sconset Bluff is honored in an oil painting that hangs over the living room mantel, a reminder of those more precarious days.

fireplace 2

Just as the house itself has had its second, and third, chance at life, many of the well-loved pieces throughout the home were reupholstered for their own second chance.  The homeowners’ unique stories are told here, too.  The 1840’s breakfront in the dining room is home to a collection of heirloom china teacups, given to the wife’s mother at her wedding shower.  Each guest arrived with a different teacup, creating a charmingly mismatched set that has been treasured for years.

dining room 2 In the master bedroom, an elaborately carved 19th Century bed from the West Indies blends effortlessly with contemporary lamps and white lacquered night tables.  There, seaglass colors soothe both body and mind.

master bedroom 3

Nantucket residents know our island is a fragile place. Climate change and stronger storms continue to buffet our shores, creating an uncertain future for seaside homes, wherever they face the waves.  In this house by the harbor, the owners have surely done their duty by their home, lovingly preserving it for years to come.

stormy ocean

All photography courtesy of Jeffrey Allen; visit his website here.

 

The Most Powerful Weapon on Earth to Fight Climate Change

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”
– Marshal Ferdinand Foch

In Fall 2011, I attended the Design Futures Council’s Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design, and was impressed by the number of thoughtful, committed architects, designers and builders who are determined to create a more sustainable future in American cities.  At the Summit, our mantra was “you must stand for something, or you will fall for everything.  Never has this been more true than in addressing the risks of climate change, and identifying ways to counteract this dangerous warming of our earth.

I have long been a believer in the “power of one,” the power of each individual to stand up, speak out, and make a difference.  Now is the time to do so.

Summer 2012 has been a dangerous season for heat, drought and wildfires, exemplified by the blazes that scorched parts of Colorado and blackened hundreds of thousands of acres of New Mexico wilderness.  The August issue of Food, Nutrition & Science called this summer’s dry heat the worst American drought in nearly 50 years. Corn crops have been hit particularly hard; their decimation reminds us how fragile our environment really is.

Missouri has been hit hard by drought, as seen in this withered stand of corn.

(For an excellent discussion of the perils of wildfires throughout the U.S., read Timothy Egan’s opinion piece from July 2012 in the New York Times here.)

Even on the island of Nantucket, fire walls are being built, and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation is working on a Wildfire Risk Reduction Program, including brush cutting firebreaks and scheduling prescribed burnings.  The goal of this effort is to identify land management strategies that will reduce “fuel loads” of highly flammable vegetation on Foundation properties, especially where they occur in close proximity to homes.

Photo courtesy of Jim Lentowski and the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.

In a world where people still debate the concepts of climate change and global warming, in spite of overwhelming evidence of steadily increasing temperatures, I turn to James E. Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) for a clear-eyed view of our future.  A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he received the Heinz Environment Award in 2001 for his climate research. Research at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) emphasizes a broad study of global change, addressing natural and man-made changes in our environment — from one-time events such as volcanic explosions, to seasonal and annual effects such as El Niño, and on up to the millennia of ice ages — that affect the habitability of our planet.

 

In an opinion piece he wrote for the Washington Post on August 3, 2012, (Climate Change Is Here, and Worse Than We Thought), Hansen discusses a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which reveal a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers.  He is emphatic that the analysis shows that for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is no explanation other than climate change.

On June 20, 2012, BusinessInsider.com published a list of 23 ways the earth has changed in the 20 years since the first “Earth Summit” was held in Rio de Janeiro.  (Read more here.)  Among the trends they’ve identified are:

  • There are about 1.5 billion more people in the world, an increase of 27%
  • The average person eats 20 pounds more meat each year.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions increased 36%, from 22 billion tons to 30 billion tons.
  • The ten hottest years since records began in 1880 all occurred since 1998.
  • Artic sea ice has declined 35%.

Who’s Taking Action?

A movement called Architecture 2030 is underway, driving a national grassroots movement to foster private/public partnerships to create sustainable urban growth.  The 2030 District Model brings property owners together with local governments, businesses, architects and planners to provide a solid business model for urban sustainability.  First established in Seattle, today more cities are joining the effort.  This month, Pittsburgh joined Cleveland and Seattle by launching a Pittsburgh 2030 District.

2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the U.S. and global Building Sector from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate change, energy consumption, and economic crises. Architecture 2030’s Edward Mazria will deliver a lecture titled “The Next Built Environment, Today” on Monday September 10th at Carnegie Mellon University.  Read more about the movement here.

What Can You Do to Help?

The scope of our activities that generate carbon dioxide emissions are great, including driving our cars, turning on a light, and heating or cooling our homes.  But you can make a difference by taking action:

  • Plan your errands to make fewer short car trips.  Cars emit the most carbon dioxide when the engine is cold.
  • Properly inflate your car tires to prevent excess fuel consumption.
  • Turn down the heat or air conditioning a fraction.  Even moving the thermostat up or down a degree or two can make a huge difference.
  • Recycle whatever you can.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Switch off appliances not in use at the wall.  Anything connected to an energy source uses standby power that can consume unnecessary energy.
  • Before buying anything, ask yourself, “do I really need this?”  Rampant consumerism plays a huge role in carbon emissions.

Look for more ways to help, by visiting Carbonify.com or livestrong.com.

As James Hansen says, “This is the world we have changed, and now we have to live in it…There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time…The future is now.  And it is hot.”